Olive Mwihaki Mugenda 2008
Olive Mwihaki Mugenda
MS '83, Family Environment
PhD '88, Family Environment
Olive Mugenda (MS ’83 family environment, PhD ’88) is a true pioneer. She is a champion of advancing educational opportunities. She has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of education in Kenya. She cares passionately about lifelong learning and academic research. She has reached out to the underprivileged youth in her country. And she is an inspirational mentor and role model for women everywhere.
Mugenda is the first woman to be selected through an open search process as vice chancellor (president) of a large public university in Kenya. Named to the highest post at Nairobi’s Kenyatta University in 2006, Mugenda has already established herself as an international leader in higher education. She recently created the Kenyatta University Fund for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Students, which supports continued education for students who lose their parents during college, and she has also recently established a foundation for underprivileged girls in Kenya to attend KU.
She has brought to her leadership role at Kenyatta a background of research and advocacy that has had a decades-long impact in eastern and southern Africa. An extensively published researcher, Mugenda coordinated the project “Reconceptualization of Home Economics in Africa” for the International Development Research Centre in 1997, edited a report on “Enhancing Girls’ Participation and Performance in Science and Mathematics” to the Rockefeller Foundation in 2000, and submitted a research report on women scientists in Kenya to UNESCO in 2002. She has also worked to foster enthusiasm for academic research in eastern Africa, coordinating the Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania Research Awards from 1993-1998.
The first-generation college graduate has also made great strides in diversifying the curricula at KU. She has restructured the home economics and life skills departments and placed greater emphasis on such topics as HIV/AIDS management, public health, women’s studies, and environmental sciences. Her own areas of academic specialization include education, women’s education, family and consumer economics, statistics, and research methods.
Prior to becoming deputy vice chancellor and later vice chancellor of KU, she was a member of the university’s family and consumer sciences faculty for 16 years. Mugenda is the recipient of Esami’s 2007 MBA Meritorious Award, the 2006 Elder of Burning Spear presidential award, the 2002 Kenyatta University Exemplary Service Award, the 2000 Atlas Alumni Award, and ISU’s 1982 Phi Kappa Phi Achievement Award—the Julia Anderson Award. She currently serves as a member of the Kenya National Examinations Council and the Lake Victoria Research Awards Initiative’s Scientific Advisory Committee.
Mugenda and her husband, Abel (MA ’87 general studies, MS ’95 education, PhD ’97 research and evaluation), live in Nairobi with their children: Albert, Christopher, and Lynda. Their daughter, Angela, is currently a student at Iowa State.